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Sandy Hook Promise, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction partner on gun violence prevention research 

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is embarking on a two-year research project with the University of Michigan School of Public Health to study anonymous reporting systems. Funded by a $700,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SHP and the University of Michigan School of Public Health will analyze previously resolved tips submitted by students throughout the state of North Carolina via the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System. Researchers will gather information about the tips – what leads students to submit one, what types of tips are submitted, how many tips are submitted, when are they submitted, etc. – and study what factors influence student tip submissions and content, and how training influences tip behavior and content.

Anonymous reporting systems, in which middle and high school students can safely alert adults to potential threats of violence at their schools, are proven to reduce overall school violence, and in some cases improve cognitive and behavioral outcomes for students. Students are more likely to report warning signs of potential violence if an anonymous reporting system is available to them.

“With over 50% of schools using anonymous reporting systems, this research project is timely and critical to better understand how these prevalent systems are being used by students,” explained Dr. Elyse Thulin, who is leading the University of Michigan’s research on this project. “I’m excited to bring advanced data science techniques to help the team work with the thousands of tips which are largely composed of text data, and thus require computational skills that are not typically used in public health research. We hope the information from this study will help us to better understand both how students use these systems and where gaps may occur.”

The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System was launched by Sandy Hook Promise in the wake of the 2018 mass school shooting at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Designed specifically for use by school communities, it provides a mobile app, website, and 24/7 telephone hotline for users to submit tips. When credible tips are received, the National Crisis Center notifies school-based representatives. In cases of lives being in imminent danger, the local 911 dispatch and law enforcement are alerted.

“This research project is an exciting opportunity for Sandy Hook Promise to use high level data analytics to expand our understanding of how students trained in Say Something use the Anonymous Reporting System to report warning signs that someone is thinking about hurting themselves or someone else,” said Alexandria Intorcio French, Director of Research and Evaluation for Sandy Hook Promise.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction contracted with Sandy Hook Promise in 2019 to provide the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System statewide – the second state to do so after Pennsylvania. To date, tips submitted by North Carolina students via the system have resulted in 1,039 confirmed mental health interventions, 109 “saves” where clear evidence of imminent suicide crisis were present and averted, 38 acts of school-based violence were prevented — including weapons recovered on school grounds — and at least six credible planned school attacks have been averted.

“Anonymous reporting is a valuable tool for school safety,” said Karen Fairley, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools within the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. “In North Carolina alone, the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System has saved many lives. I am pleased that this grant funding will enhance and expand Sandy Hook Promise’s service and resources to public school units across North Carolina.”

University of Michigan Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education Dr. Justin Heinze further elaborated on the importance of this research: “Anonymous Reporting Systems can be the difference between loss of life and getting students the support they need. The more we understand about what, when, and why students report, the better we can use these tools for intervention.”


Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) envisions a future where all children are free from school shootings and other acts of violence. As a national nonprofit organization, SHP’s mission is to educate and empower youth and adults to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities. Creators of the life-saving, evidence-informed “Know the Signs” prevention programs, SHP teaches the warning signs of someone who may be in crisis, socially isolated, or at-risk of hurting themselves or others and how to get help. SHP also advances school safety, youth mental health, and responsible gun ownership at the state and federal levels through nonpartisan policy and partnerships. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. 

Media Contact:

Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579